What it takes to be racially literate | Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo

Priya Vulchi: Four years ago,
we really thought we understood racism. Just like many of you here today,
we had experienced and heard stories about race, about prejudice,
discrimination and stereotyping and we were like, "We get it,
racism, we got it, we got it." But we weren't even close. Winona Guo: So we decided
that we had to listen and learn more. We talked to as many
random people as we could and collected hundreds
of personal stories about race, stories that revealed how racial injustice
is a nationwide epidemic that we ourselves spread and now can't seem
to recognize or get rid of. PV: We're not there yet. Today, we are here to raise
our standards of racial literacy, to redefine what it means
to be racially literate. WG: We want everywhere
across the United States for our youngest and future generations
to grow up equipped with the tools to understand,
navigate and improve a world structured by racial division. We want us all to imagine
the community as a place where we not only feel proud
of our own backgrounds, but can also invest in others'
experiences as if they were our own. PV: We just graduated
from high school this past June. WG: And you'd think — (Applause) And you'd think after 12 years somebody in or out of the classroom
would have helped us understand — PV: At a basic level at least — WG: The society we live in. PV: The truth for almost
all our classmates is that they don't. WG: In communities around our country,
so many of which are racially divided, PV: If you don't go searching
for an education about race, for racial literacy — WG: You won't get it. It won't just come to you. PV: Even when we did
have conversations about race, our understanding was always superficial. We realized that there are two big gaps in our racial literacy. WG: First, the heart gap: an inability to understand
each of our experiences, to fiercely and unapologetically
be compassionate beyond lip service. PV: And second, the mind gap: an inability to understand the larger,
systemic ways in which racism operates. WG: First, the heart gap. To be fair, race did pop up
a few times in school, growing up. We all defend our social justice education because we learned
about Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. But even in all of those conversations, race always felt outdated, like, "Yes, slavery, that happened
once upon a time, but why does it really matter now?" As a result, we didn't really care. But what if our teacher introduced
a story from the present day, for example, how Treniya
told us in Pittsburgh that — PV: "My sister was scrolling through
Facebook and typed in our last name. This white guy popped up, and we found out that his
great-great-grandfather owned slaves and my great-great-
great-grandmother was one of them. My last name — it's not who I am. We've been living
under a white man's name. If slavery didn't happen,
who would I even be?" WG: Now it feels relevant, immediate, because the connection to slavery's
lasting legacy today is made clear, right? Or what would happen is our teacher
would throw out these cold statistics. You've probably seen this one before
in news headlines. PV: African-Americans are incarcerated more than five times
the rate of white people. WG: Now consider Ronnie, in Seattle. PV: "My father means everything to me. He's all I've got, I don't know my mother. My father's currently being
wrongly incarcerated for 12 years. I've got a daughter, and I try to be
that same fatherly figure for her: always involved in everything she does,
it might even be annoying at some points. But I'm afraid I'll go missing in her life just like my father did in mine." WG: Throwing out just the statistic,
just the facts alone, disconnected from real humans, can lead to dangerously incomplete
understanding of those facts. It fails to recognize that for many people
who don't understand racism the problem is not a lack of knowledge to talk about the pain
of white supremacy and oppression, it's that they don't recognize
that that pain exists at all. They don't recognize the human beings
that are being affected, and they don't feel enough to care. PV: Second, the mind gap. We can't ignore the stats, either. We can't truly grasp Ronnie's situation without understanding how things
like unjust laws and biased policing systematic racism has created the disproportionate
incarceration rates over time. Or like how in Honolulu, the large prison population
of native Hawaiians like Kimmy is heavily influenced
by the island's long history with US colonialization, its impact passing down
through generations to today. For us, sometimes we would talk about people's personal,
unique experiences in the classroom. Stuff like, how Justin once told us — WG: "I've been working on psychologically
reclaiming my place in this city. Because for me, my Chicago
isn't the nice architecture downtown, it's not the North Side. My Chicago is the orange line,
the pink line, the working immigrant class going on the train." PV: And while we might have
acknowledged his personal experience, we wouldn't have talked
about how redlining and the legalized segregation of our past created the racially divided
neighborhoods we live in today. We wouldn't have completely understood how racism is embedded in the framework
of everything around us, because we would stay narrowly focused
on people's isolated experiences. Another example,
Sandra in DC once told us: WG: "When I'm with my Korean family,
I know how to move with them. I know what to do in order to have them
feel like I care about them. And making and sharing food is one of the most fundamental
ways of showing love. When I'm with my partner
who's not Korean, however, we've had to grapple with the fact that I'm very food-centric
and he's just not. One time he said that he didn't
want to be expected to make food for me, and I got really upset." PV: That might seem like a weird reaction, but only if we don't recognize
how it's emblematic of something larger, something deeper. Intragenerational trauma. How in Sandra's family,
widespread hunger and poverty existed as recently
as Sandra's parents' generation and therefore impacts Sandra today. She experiences someone saying — WG: "I don't want to feed you." PV: As — WG: "I don't want to hug you." PV: And without her and her partner
having that nuanced understanding of her reaction and the historical
context behind it, it could easily lead
to unnecessary fighting. That's why it's so important
that we proactively — (Both speaking): Co-create — PV: A shared American culture that identifies and embraces
the different values and norms within our diverse communities. WG: To be racially literate — PV: To understand who we are
so that we can heal together — WG: We cannot neglect the heart — PV: Or the mind. So, with our hundreds of stories, we decided to publish
a racial literacy textbook to bridge that gap
between our hearts and minds. WG: Our last book, "The Classroom Index," shares deeply personal stories. PV: And pairs those personal stories to the brilliant research
of statisticians and scholars. WG: Every day, we are still
blown away by people's experiences, by the complexity
of our collective racial reality. PV: So today, we ask you — WG: Are you racially literate? Are you there yet? PV: Do you really understand
the people around you, their stories, stories like these? It's not just knowing
that Louise from Seattle survived Japanese American
internment camps. It's knowing that, meanwhile, her husband was one of an estimated
33,000 Japanese Americans who fought for our country during the war, a country that was simultaneously
interning their families. For most of us, those Japanese Americans
both in camps and in service, now see their bravery, their resilience,
their history forgotten. They've become only victims. PV: It's not just knowing
that interracial marriages like Shermaine and Paul in DC exist, it's acknowledging that our society
has been programmed for them to fail. That on their very first date
someone shouted, "Why are you with that black whore?" That according to a Columbia study
on cis straight relationships black is often equated with masculinity and Asian with femininity, leading more men to not value black women
and to fetishize Asian women. Among black-white marriages
in the year 2000, 73 percent had a black husband
and a white wife. Paul and Shermaine defy that statistic. Black is beautiful, but it takes a lot to believe so
once society says otherwise. WG: It's not just knowing
that white people like Lisa in Chicago have white privilege, it's reflecting consciously
on the term whiteness and its history, knowing that whiteness
can't be equated with American. It's knowing that Lisa can't forget
her own personal family's history of Jewish oppression. That she can't forget how, growing up, she was called a dirty Jew
with horns and tails. But Lisa knows she can pass as white so she benefits from huge systemic
and interpersonal privileges, and so she spends every day grappling with ways that she can
leverage that white privilege for social justice. For example, starting conversations
with other people of privilege about race. Or shifting the power
in her classroom to her students by learning to listen to their experiences
of racism and poverty. PV: It's not just knowing
that native languages are dying. It's appreciating how fluency
in the Cherokee language, which really only less
than 12,000 people speak today, is an act of survival,
of preservation of culture and history. It's knowing how
the nongendered Cherokee language enabled Ahyoka's acceptance
as a trans woman in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Her grandmother told her firmly
a saying in Cherokee, "I don't tell me who you are, you tell me who you are. And that is who you are." WG: These are just parts of a few stories. There are approximately
323 million people in the United States. PV: And 7.4 billion people on the planet. WG: So we have a lot to listen to. PV: And a lot to learn. WG: We need to raise the bar. PV: Elevate our standards
for racial literacy. Because without investing
in an education that values — WG: Both the stories —
PV: And statistics — WG: The people —
PV: And the numbers — WG: The interpersonal —
PV: And the systemic — WG: There will always be a piece missing. PV: Today, so few of us
understand each other. WG: We don't know how to communicate — PV: Live together —
WG: Love one another. We need to all work together
to create a new national community. PV: A new shared culture
of mutual suffering and celebration. WG: We need to each begin by learning
in our own local communities, bridging the gaps between
our own hearts and minds to become racially literate. PV: Once we all do,
we will be that much closer to living in spaces and systems
that fight and care equally for all of us. WG: Then, none of us
will be able to remain distant. PV: We couldn't — sorry,
mom and dad, college can wait. WG: We're on a gap year before college,
traveling to all 50 states collecting stories for our next book. PV: And we still have 23 states
left to interview in. (Both) Let's all get to work. Thank you. (Applause)

34 thoughts on “What it takes to be racially literate | Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo”

  1. 7:14 "That's why it's so important that we co-create a shared American culture…".
    Sounds good, but when you are white, that's called "Cultural Appropriation" and it's a bad thing, at least when we do it. So do you have any advice that's a little more practical?

  2. I was a Police Officer of over 20 years. I am so sick of these one-sided narratives created by individuals who are not willing to look at both sides of the argument. You bring up white privilege, really! You need to do some more research and stop spouting your idiot professors ideologies and confused argument….Until we drop the race baiting and focus on the character rather than the color of others, nothing will change…

  3. Yeah because a bunch of teens who have never been through any ACTUAL racism are trying to teach me what racism is.

  4. The worst thing is, the people responsible for this video will see the like/dislike proportion and will comme to the conclusion: it's because people are racist that they don't like the video, not because our video is bad

  5. Wonder how much $ they made from this. Just treat people like people and don't worry about what race someone is. Every race has it's share of assholes. Always has always will.

  6. This identity politics has become a sickening religion, on both sides of the aisle. It's like a competition of who can outvictim the others at this point

  7. Really ridiculous. Can’t discuss race without a black person on the panel. You present two of the most biased ethnicities towards blacks????? Really?

  8. Hmm . . . More neomarxism. It's made its way to highschool. Thanks for making me aware. However, I really do think it would be better to judge someone by content and character rather than by how much melanin ones melanocytes are encoded to produce, or by other skin deep features for that matter.

  9. Dear two presenters, Everything you say is 100% misleading and harms people. Did you check the views of those who disagree? No? Then how are you different from a sc-entologist who reads only L Ron Hubbard and nothing else? Black crime is due to 1. absolute destruction of black family due to liberal welfare state and radical feminists. Before out of wedlock births were 10% or so. After liberal, feminist welfare, now 80%. The cause is you, and your one-sided lies. Congratulations. 2. Genetic science. 80% of IQ is genetic. The average mostly genetically determined IQ of the population that must never be mentioned is 85%. 85%. Smart enough to steal and take drugs but not smart enough to learn calculus in school or type a logical document at work. And yet you ignore 100 years of global IQ science and focus on white males as the problem. Have you no shame? Aren't you ashamed of being racist? 3. Drug policy (this one is conervatives' fault). If you have no two parent family, you tend not to study and learn enough to get a good job. If drugs are illegal, you can make more in one day selling them than you can working at Denny's. These three factors are the main causes. One and two are fault if liberals, three conservatives. The arrest statistic you mentioned us false and misleading. Please read Jared Taylor or Stefan Molyneux videos on race and IQ and on welfare and race. Read the other side! You just finished high school! Be objective, look, read and most of all discuss with KNOWLEDEABKE. people who have the opposing viewpoint. Or rather, don't. Liberalism truely is a mental disorder. No cure. Please surround yourselves with only radical left racist white-hating Marxists and descend into socialist social justice warrior Venezuela and eat stray cats and zoo animals if you wish. Embrace your bubble! Don't honestly check the other side, enjoy!

  10. Divisive politics and language are some of our main issues today, they must be dismantled during our time. Wake up TED.

  11. TED’s online audience isn’t made up of a massive group of down voting racists, just a group of >individuals< united in their pursuit of knowledge. The viewer base of this channel is inevitably more educated than most others, so clearly the majority won’t be disliking because of something as irrational as genuine racism. It’s about time TED organisers asked themselves why the response to these type of videos is so consistently negative. It’s definitely not because a TED subscription is a prerequisite to joining the KKK.

  12. Her father is in prison, she never knew her mother, she has a kid while still being in high school…and she think her problem is racism. What about taking good decisions some time.

  13. Dudes what are you doing, you don´t want to make white people race aware. Especially if you start to throw around whit stats this will not end well when we get to crime and IQ.

    I just slowly getting pissed that you have this people running around and building a shame culture where we have to accept there bullshit because some historical reasons. I just don´t care anymore and populations whit a lower IQ don´t help us in the West and here in Europe whit the Muslims they start to get a real danger.

    So just maybe think about if you want to make white people racially literate, at the moment we are colorblind but this lefties are changing this and i don´t see to much of a benefit in the long run.

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